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October 08, 2018

Mike Tarullo: A Forum Cornerstone

Robbie MacPherson

Mike Tarullo was given the Cornerstone Award in April 2018. Owing to strict Forum editorial guidelines, I was asked to explain why in less than 700 words.

 Early on in his Forum “career,” Mike got in involved in Division 4 Project Delivery Systems.  A Graduate Engineer, Mike worked in the industry before becoming a lawyer. Mike realized new delivery systems would bring big changes.  He also knew that construction lawyers could make a real contribution as those changes played out.

His work in Division 4 led Mike to look for a bigger role in the Forum and eventually submitted his nomination to be a Governing Committee member.  I was on the committee that would be vetting the nominations. Mike’s was unlike any others.

As you may know, and if you don’t please take note, most people self-nominate.  When you think you are ready please consider putting your name in the hat.  It is a Forum myth that one of the qualifications is being able to match the Division numbers with Division names.

Being lawyers, each nominee puts together a compelling case for their selection as a GC Member, recounting accomplishments in the Forum and what they see as the Forum’s future and their role.

Mike’s brief for himself was just that, brief.  It was an email saying he would like to be considered.  It’s not that Mike thought he was a shoe-in, he just doesn’t blow his own horn.  But if Mike was not going to make the case for himself, I would.  

When it came time to talk about Mike I knew more about what Mike had done and could do for the Forum than he did. But there was no need for my speech.  Almost at once, everyone agreed Mike would make a great GC Member, and just like that it was a done deal.  I am still taking credit for at least being prepared to make the case for Mike.  Mike was of course a tireless GC Member and then Forum Officer and had many accomplishments during his tenure.

Mike made a concerted effort to manage and control the Forum’s finances and budgeting. Mike was also one of the first Forum leaders to encourage the Forum to use its resources to benefit not only our members, but other organizations, such as Tulane University’s Katrina rebuilding program and ACE Mentor.  That effort is now formalized in the Forum’s Reserve Spending Program.

You have probably seen the recent reports about declining ABA Membership.  The ABA is now reorganizing itself, hoping to reverse that trend. Mike predicted that need many years ago and made sure the Forum was always thinking about its members. More than ten years ago, Mike told senior ABA officers the ABA’s priorities were in the wrong place. Mike encouraged more support for groups like the Forum that provided quality education, publications, and opportunities for fellowship.  Mike pointed out that the Forum added value and had a growing membership, unlike the overall ABA, which was losing membership. Perhaps they should have listened more carefully to Mike way back.

Mike was the visionary behind the Searchable Knowledgebase.  The Knowledgebase, available on the Forum’s webpage, has links to all Forum Program Papers and PowerPoints going back to 2002.

Mike was also behind both the Forms and Substance Program and book.  Where else can you find  forms ranging from The Irrevocable Standyby Letter of Credit, a Marshalling and Staging Agreement, a Swingway Agreement, and, one of my favorites, the much heralded Reciprocal Negative Easement Agreement, often used by under assistant west coast promotion men.  Forms and Substance is just like Mike.  It offers dependable and practicable guidance and advice.

While doing all that for the Forum, Mike has been active in the Central Ohio Builder’s Exchange and the Exchange’s Foundation, which raises money to fund industry advancement initiatives.  His efforts led the Exchange to give Mike its 2015 Cornerstone Award, the first time it was given to an attorney.

Mike Tarullo is a true Forum Cornerstone.

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Robbie MacPherson

Gibbons, P.C., Newark, NJ